Chevy Volt

The Chevrolet Volt concept car on display during the press preview days at the North American International Auto show Jan. 7, 2007 in Detroit, Mich.

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The Chevrolet division of General Motors created the Volt hybrid electric-gasoline vehicle as a concept, first. Now, of course, anyone who has even a passing relationship with cars knows that they went on sale to the public in late 2010.

And even though all the big automakers have hybrids or other alternative fuel vehicles in their line-up, it wasn't an immediate slam-dunk decision at GM to bring cars like the Volt to market.

Even Bob Lutz, the GM marketing maverick who championed the Volt, at first ridiculed hybrids such as the Toyota Prius. But with truck and SUV sales down, the price of oil up, and a sagging economy forcing a government bailout of GM, it was clear GM needed to embrace new thinking.

The Volt was one of the most dramatic examples of GM's shift in strategic focus, boasting a 60-mile-per-gallon (25.5-kilometer-per-liter) equivalent when combining gasoline and electric modes. To some degree, you have to squint to see the relationship between the concept vehicle unveiled in 2007 and the production version than went on sale in 2010.

For example, the gun-slit headlamps and retro-squarish body made way for larger, Ford-esque HID headlamps and a wind tunnel-approved body that greatly lowered the coefficient of drag.

GM has taken some heat for pricing of the Volt -- at $40,000 or so, it's asking a premium price for a family sedan (albeit a highly efficient and technologically stunning one).

Still, the auto world has largely heaped praise on the Volt. Even though hybrids had been around for years, after the Volt's market entry, the GM "extended-range electric" managed to be innovative, practical to drive and unusually refined compared to hybrid and full-electric competitors.

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